News & Reviews

Louisville Music News
February 1999

Recordings Reviews

It's A Family Thing

Global (Robin Records)
The Cowsills
by Jim Conway

The year was 1969. My friends and I were goofing off with a football in my parent's backyard, high on life as only ten year olds can be. It could have been a scene straight out of "The Wonder Years". As we were horsing around, one of my sillier friends ran his fingers through his short hair cut, and started to sing ...

"Gimmie a head with hair, long beautiful hair.
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxin, waxin..."

The Cowsills single of "Hair" reached number two on the U.S. charts in 1969, and it was our pre-adolescent anthem of rebellion. We identified with the Cowsills, and man of us secretly wished we could be in a family that "cool". For those of you too young to remember, the Cowsills were to the Sixties what Hanson is to the Nineties: they were a real family group, who wrote, recorded, performed and produced much of their own music. I will suggest that if not for The Cowsills, there may have been no Osmonds, no Partridge Family, not Jackson Five, and ... no Hanson.

This may be more of a curse than a blessing to the version of the group Bob Cowsill has brought together twenty-seven years after their last release, but don't let the old 16 Magazine image throw you. On their new CD, they deliver the goods. From the Who-influenced rocker "What About Love?" to the pure pop "glory days" reflection of "Some Good Years", Bob and Mary Jo Cowsill's songwriting delivers the type of guitar-oriented power pop that could make guys like Marshall Crenshaw and John Reubin green with envy.

The melodic hooks and catchy, good-time feel flow with ease and unpretentiousness, like the old Cowsill hits, but with the self realization of lovers who understand the emotional toll of starting a new relationship, while asking themselves "Is is worth the risk?". Case in point: Susan Cowsills' vocal performance on "Cross That Line" dares her lover to "be a man", cross that line of male self-centerdness and do the right thing for the relationship. Susan, along with husband Peter Holsapple of the Continental Drifters, really shines here. Holsapple's mandolin work on "You've Got No Time" provides a haunting time signature through the song. With regards to Susan's talent, Bill Holmes of Cosmic Debris has suggested that she " ... may be the most underrated vocalist on the scene ... " I won't discount that here. In fact, brother Bob notes, "Her vocals on Global are her shining moment. I've never heard singers do some of the things she does here."

Which brings us to Bob Cowsill himself. It takes an artist of exceptional talent to transform the mundane subjects of "What I Believe" and "Some Good Years" and make them sound fresh and alive. I'll even suggest that Bob Cowsill is a candidate for most underrated song writer and simply scold the major labels for passing on this album.

Having said that, the original fans can now scratch our thinning "hair" and know that Global only validates what we knew about The Cowsills way back in '60.

Global is available at .

© 1999 Jim Conway and Louisville Music News

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